Psalm 28; 2 Chronicles 29:20–30:27; Acts 24:17–27

Psalm 28: This David psalm of supplication gets right to the point:”To You, O Lord, I call./ My rock, do not be deaf to me.” (1a) The psalmist’s logic is that if God cannot hear his supplication, God will not speak and he might as well be dead: “Lest You be mute to me/ and I be like those gone down to the Pit.” (1b)

After he repeats his plea for God to hear him. he articulates his deepest fear that he would be trapped among conniving evildoers steeped in falsehoods rather than on the mountain with God:
Do not pull me down with the wicked,
and with the wrongdoers,
who speak peace to their fellows
with foulness in their heart.” (3)

Now we arrive at the heart of the prayer, which is for the evildoers to receive their comeuppance as the psalmist asks God to provide retribution on his behalf:
Pay them back for their acts
and for the evil of their schemings.
Their handiwork give them back in kind.
Pay back what is coming to them.” (4)

Of course the eternal question this type of retributive prayer raises is, are we to pray for evil to come upon those who have wronged us, or more generally, those who have wronged their fellow man? Jesus makes it clear that we are to pray for our enemies but not for their destruction.

But for our psalmist, God’s punishment is the only logical possibility because evildoers are oblivious to God’s action in the world: “For they understand not the acts of the Lord/ and His handwork they would destroy and not build.” (5) Well, here we have it: count among evildoers those who would desecrate the earth; those who destroy rather than build. In short, we are to be stewards, not destroyers of the earth. Civilization seems never to have learned that lesson.

The psalm concludes on the optimistic note that God has indeed “heard the sound of my pleading.” (6) God is assuredly not deaf. In fact, the psalmist exclaims, “The Lord is my strength and my shield. In Him my heart trusts.” (7a) And as a result of God’s action, he responds. as always, in worship: “I was helped and my heart rejoiced,/ and with my song I acclaim Him.” (7b) And our psalmist employs David’s kingly position and asks that God’s blessing is to be extended to all people in his kingdom:
Rescue Your people 
and bless Your estate.
Tend them, bear them up for all time.”

What a tremendous promise: that through Jesus Christ God indeed bears us up for all time.

2 Chronicles 29:20–30:27: With the temple restored and re-sanctified, Hezekiah “rose early, assembled the officials of the city, and went up to the house of the Lord.” (29:20) There, the assembly commences an enormous sacrifice “For the king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel.” (29:24)  There is music and worship: “the whole assembly worshiped, the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.” (29:28)

In fact, there are so many sacrifices, that the priests cannot do the task themselves because not enough priests have been sanctified. So they call in Levites to help. We can tell where our authors’ loyalties lay—they were obviously Levites themselves—when they editorialize that “the Levites were more conscientious than the priests in sanctifying themselves.” (28:34)

Hezekiah is so inspired by the restoration of the temple that he invites Israel to join the party. He sends couriers throughout Israel “with letters from the king and his officials, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, so that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria.” (30:6) But the couriers mostly meet derision in Israel. “Only a few from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem.” (30:11).

Many of those from Israel who came had no knowledge of the Levitical laws and “had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the passover otherwise than as prescribed.” (30:18) Hezekiah understands their ignorance and rather than punishing them for breaking the rules, prays to God, The good Lord pardon all who set their hearts to seek God, the Lord the God of their ancestors, even though not in accordance with the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.” (30:19) And as our psalmist today wished, God heard Hezekiah and “healed the people.” 

We tend to think of the Old Covenant as being strictly black and white, yet here we see a sublime example of God’s grace. Grace is not a New Testament invention.

Acts 24:17–27:  Paul accurately describes the events at the temple, telling Felix that “they found me in the temple, completing the rite of purification, without any crowd or disturbance.” (18) He tells Felix that his accusers were Jews from Asia and makes the rather valid point that “they ought to be here before you to make an accusation, if they have anything against me.” (19) As for the Jewish accusers who are present in court, Paul says, the only feasible accusation against him is theological not judicial, specifically, “the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’” (21)

Luke tells us that Felix is already pretty well informed about “the Way.” The procurator adjourns court, stating that he awaits the arrival of Lysias the tribune (at last: his name!) to provide further testimony.

A few days later, Felix sends for Paul “and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus.” (24) Paul is obviously a convincing speaker and “as [Paul] discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.” (25)

But something more sinister than  a disputation about theology is afoot with Felix. He sends for Paul repeatedly, hoping that Paul will offer the procurator a bribe in order to gain his freedom. This goes on for two years(!) Portus Festus succeeds Felix and “since he wanted to grant the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.” (27) In the end, Felix is merely a petty and corrupt bureaucrat.

In the story of Paul’s ersatz trial in Caesarea, we learn that the Jewish hierarchy and the Roman system of justice are both corrupt at their heart. Paul obviously knows this. We are beginning to suspect that Paul has a greater purpose in mind.

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